June 18, 2008 / 3:07 PM / 11 years ago

Brown welcomes French return to NATO

Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown (R) welcomes France's President Nicolas Sarkozy as he arrives for a meeting at 10 Downing Street in London on March 27, 2008. REUTERS/Christophe Ena/Pool

LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Gordon Brown welcomed France’s decision to move towards full integration with NATO, saying on Wednesday he hoped for a new era of cooperation among military allies.

“I welcome the decision that President (Nicolas) Sarkozy has made, that he will wish to bring France back into the inner core of NATO,” Brown told parliament during prime minister’s questions.

“I believe that that can move forward over the next year and I believe that cooperation within NATO can be enhanced.”

Sarkozy on Tuesday unveiled a sweeping overhaul of France’s defence structure, saying he wanted to create a more mobile, better-equipped army. He plans to sharply increase spending to achieve that goal.

He also said France would boost its military cooperation within the European Union and advocate “full participation in NATO structures”, leaving open whether it would rejoin the alliance’s military command structure.

Britain and France, separated at their narrowest point by just 20 miles (32 km) of sea, will also work more closely on naval cooperation, but Brown dismissed suggestions in the press that the navies — ancient enemies — could merge.

“There is no proposal to merge the use of aircraft carriers as has been suggested in the press,” Brown said.

France was merely suggesting greater “association”, he said. “In other words, we will work together, not merge, not amalgamate.”

Reporting by Luke Baker; Editing by Caroline Drees

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